From JOSHUA GREEN at the Atlantic:
An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio’s 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.
Iott, whose district lies in Northwest Ohio, was involved with a group that calls itself Wiking, whose members are devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II.
Now, now, kids, let’s not get all bent out of shape. Rich Iott is just a family guy with Republican family values. I’ve found some pictures that will show you what a nice guy ol’ Rich really is. In fact, he’s just like us (well, those of us who are not Christine O’Donnell, who is “you” (if you are not a witch). Before he grabs a shave, Rich takes a nice long bath and enjoys his morning tea while his cat, Rudolf Hiss, looks on.
Look how proud he is of that Susan B. Anthony List endorsement!
When contacted by The Atlantic, Iott confirmed his involvement with the group over a number of years, but said his interest in Nazi Germany was historical and he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism. “No, absolutely not,” he said. “In fact, there’s a disclaimer on the [Wiking] website. And you’ll find that on almost any reenactment website. It’s purely historical interest in World War II.”
Iott, a member of the Ohio Military Reserve, added, “I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things. I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that’s incredible.”
Iott says the group chose the Wiking division in part because it fought on the Eastern Front, mainly against the Russian Army, and not U.S. or British soldiers. The group’s website includes a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the “twisted” nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism:
Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a “New and Free Europe”, free of the threat of Communism. [...] We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.
Historians of Nazi Germany vehemently dispute this characterization. “These guys don’t know their history,” said Charles W. Sydnor, Jr., a retired history professor and author of “Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death’s Head Division, 1933-45,” which chronicles an SS division. “They have a sanitized, romanticized view of what occurred.” Sydnor added that re-enactments like the Wiking group’s are illegal in Germany and Austria. “If you were to put on an SS uniform in Germany today, you’d be arrested.”
Well, it’s a good thing we’re not in Germany, so that Rich and the little woman can attend Republican social events in all their finery!
Iott says he does not recall exactly when he joined the Wiking group (his name appears on a unit roster as far back as 2003), but did so with his son “as a father-son bonding thing.” He says his name and pictures were removed from the Wiking website not out of concern that they would harm his political career, but because he quit the group three years ago, after his son lost interest.
Hotsy, totsy, a new-born Nazi! Does anything say father-son bonding like marching around like uniformed mass murderers? Where’s the Father-of-the-Year plaque?
Asked whether his participation in a Nazi re-enactor’s group might not upset voters, particularly Jewish voters, Iott said he hoped it would not: “They have to take it in context. There’s reenactors out there who do everything. You couldn’t do Civil War re-enacting if somebody didn’t play the role of the Confederates. [This] is something that’s definitely way in the past. … [I hope voters] take it in context and see it for what it is, an interest in World War II history. And that’s strictly all.”
I’m sure it won’t make any difference at all. At least, not with his most ardent supporters. Look how much fun they had with ol’ Rich at a recent campaign stategery session! (Though I don’t think we’ll be seeing Rich on Dancing with the Tsars anytime soon!)
After all, they realize that ol’ Rich is just a victim.
(CNN) – The Ohio Congressional candidate who has received national attention for a photo where he appears in a Nazi uniform, responded to the reports Saturday in a statement on his website.
Rich Iott, a Republican who is running in Ohio’s 9th district, said in the statement that he has participated in military re-enactments since college and it is a “hobby” he enjoys with his son.
But his political opponents were quick to condemn him as a “Nazi enthusiast.”
“It’s an unbelievably disturbing story here about this Nazi enthusiast,” Ryan Rudominer, National Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said. “It’s extremely telling that the NRCC (National Republican Campaign Committee) is recruiting and embracing candidates like this.”
Iott was previously listed as one of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s young gun contenders – a list of up and coming Republicans candidates – but the website no longer includes Iott.
The NRCC did not immediately return a request for comment.
FULL STATEMENT from Rich Iott:“Anyone who knows me would tell you that I am a proud American who loves this country and loves Freedom and those who have died fighting to preserve it. The despicable accusations and distortions of the truth that have been leveled at me, sadly exemplify why people have lost faith in the political process and with the media as well.
“Never, in any of my re-enacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war. I have immense respect for veterans who served our country valiantly, particularly those who fought to rid the world of tyranny and aggression by relegating Nazism to the trash heap of history. In fact, my respect for the military and our veterans is one of the reasons I have actively studied military history throughout my life.
“Historical re-enacting is a hobby enjoyed by millions of men – and women – around the world. I have been involved in historical re-enacting from many different eras since I was in college. When my son was old enough to participate, it became a hobby that the two of us could do together and I’m grateful for the father-son bonding we shared as we participated in the events.”
“This election needs to be about issues, not false character attacks. Middle class families are struggling and honest people are out of work, which is why I hope my opponent will join me in condemning these blatant distortions and attacks and pledge to focus on the issues that Ohioans so desperately want Washington to address.”
Oh, Rich Iott, you’re just adorable!
Here’s Marcy Kaptur’s Act Blue page.